1st Special Forces Group

Green Beret with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) conducts training.
A Green Beret with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) conducts fast rope insertion extraction system training from a MH-60S helicopter on Torii Station, Okinawa, Japan, June 2, 2021. (Staff Sgt. Ryan Hohman/1st Special Forces Group Airborne)

One of the first Special Operations groups formed began during World War II. Geoffrey Pyke, a scientist working for the British combined Operations Headquarters, imagined a small, elite commando unit utilizing tracked vehicles to strike at infrastructure behind enemy lines in the winter.

Despite negative views on the mission, LTC Robert T. Frederick was instructed to proceed with the creation of such a force and to plan strikes on heavy water plants in Norway. Volunteers were pulled from service members with experience as lumberjacks, forest rangers, hunters, game wardens, prospectors and explorers. Some commanders, reluctant to see their best soldiers used in a new program, provided individuals from stockades and some who simply didn't fit the standard mold.

Training for the new unit included stealth tactics, hand-to-hand combat, explosives, parachuting, small-water craft, mountain climbing and ski warfare. They were trained to fight with non-conventional weapons, such as the M1941 Johnson light machine gun, plastic explosives and the V-42 combat knife. By the time the force was ready, Allied bombers already had reached targets in Norway.

Instead, Frederick was ordered to break a stalemate with the Germans in Italy. The new unit climbed cliffs and scaled mountains and broke the Germans without firing a single round. A German officer's diary referred to them as die schwarzen Teufeln, meaning the Black Devils.

Later in the war, the 1st Special Forces Group operated in Japan and became responsible for Special Operations in the Pacific theater. The unit was disbanded in 1945, brought back in 1960, inactivated in 1974 and brought back again in 1984. It has participated in operations during World War II, Vietnam and Afghanistan. The 1st Special Forces Group also has served in the war on drugs and has given humanitarian aid to countries such as the Philippines.

The 1st Special Forces Group operates under the U.S. Army Special Forces Command, which is a part of the United States Army Special Operations command (USASOC) and is responsible for operations in the following countries:

Australia Comoros Korea, Republic of Mauritius Palau, Republic of Sri Lanka
Bangladesh Cook Islands Korea, North Micronesia, Federated States of Papau New Guinea Taiwan
Bhutan Fiji Laos Nauru Philippines Thailand
Brunei India Madagascar Nepal Russia Tonga
Burma (Myanmar) Indonesia Malaysia New Caledonia/French Polynesia (France) Samoa Tuvalu
Cambodia Japan Maldives Niue Singapore Vanuatu
China Kiribati Marshall Islands, Republic of New Zealand Solomon Islands Vietnam

Want to Know More About the Military?

Be sure to get the latest news about the U.S. military, as well as critical info about how to join and all the benefits of service. Subscribe to Military.com and receive customized updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Story Continues